A Guide to Citing Sources in Classics

General Guidelines & Frequently Asked QuestionsUsing QuotationsCiting ancient sources (i.e. primary literature)Citing Secondary SourcesFormats to use when citing a work in your bibliography

General Guidelines & Frequently Asked Questions

Why and how do I include quotations in my paper?

Quotations are not substitutes for argumentation. They support your argument by providing evidence. The importance of quotations is not self-evident. Explain why you are introducing them and what conclusion a reader should draw from them.

Additional guidelines for using quotations.

Examples of effective and ineffective quotations.

Why do we cite?

Citing your sources has two main purposes: one practical; the other ethical.

First, citations allow a reader to locate information that you quote or cite, allowing them to explore a topic further and to verify your interpretations and arguments.

Secondly, you have an ethical responsibility to acknowledge when you use the words of others or have developed your arguments from the thoughts and work of other scholars.

For a discussion of plagiarism, see the Writing Center website under "Resources for Writers."

What are the most important
aspects of citing?

What do I need to cite?

Be consistent.

When in doubt, cite. It is better to over-cite, than to risk unintentional plagiarism. Or better yet, ask your professor.

You must cite whenever you are employing words or thoughts that are not your own. These could be a direct quotation, or a paraphrase.

Common knowledge and non-controversial facts do not need to be cited. For example, the sentence, "The Battle of Salamis occurred in 480 BCE and was a decisive victory for the allied Greeks." contains common, uncontroversial knowledge and would not need to be cited.

Can I cite Wikipedia or other anonymous on-line resources?

No. Listen to Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, “For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia." The Internet contains a staggering amount of accurate, useful information--and just as much that is inaccurate, intentionally deceiving, or downright bizarre. Without attribution, you have no way of being sure of the authority of the information, or even who has provided it.

What format do I use to cite in my paper?

Because of the nature of Classical texts, as works that were composed long before printed editions (and even "pages"), they have a specialized format: Primary Sources (e.g. ancient texts)

The format of secondary sources is more typical, with slight variation between citations that appear in-text and those in footnotes.

What if I'm citing the same source over and over?

After giving the full citation the first time you use a source, you can use "Ibid." to indicate the same source. More on using Ibid.

What format do I use in my Bibliography?

The exact format of a work depends on the nature of that work. Here are links to examples of the most common types. If a type you need to site does not appear on this list, contact your professor.

Book with One Author
Book with an Editor
Book with Multiple Volumes
Journal Article
On-line Resource

Using Quotations

Quotations are not substitutes for argumentation but should support your argument by providing evidence. The importance of quotations is not self-evident. Explain why you are introducing them and what conclusion a reader should draw from them.

  • FORMAT: For quotations over 2 lines long: omit quotation marks, indent 1 inch; single-space; do not reduce font size.
  • PUNCTUATION: Commas and periods are placed inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons, outside quotation marks; dashes, question marks, and exclamation points appear inside quotation marks if they are part of the quotation. The closing quotation mark comes after all punctuation.
  • OMITTING WORKS: If you omit words in a quotation, use an ellipse, three dots (…), or four at the end of a sentence.
  • ERROR IN THE QUOTATION: If there is a grammatical or factual error in a quotation, you should insert “[sic]” immediately following the error. E.g. “In 1961 [sic], the Civil War began.”
  • POETRY: In poetry, if you are citing a short passages (less than 2 lines), mark the divisions between verses: e.g. “Son of Atreus, the Greeks are out to make you, / My Lord, the most despised man on earth” – the “/” indicates a new line.

Examples Of Effective And Ineffective Uses Of Quotations


In Book 16, Achilles wishes that “all of them, Greeks and Trojans alike,/ Every last man on Troy’s dusty plain,/ Were dead, and only you and I were left/ To rip Ilion down, stone by sacred stone.”

Talking to Priam, Helen describes Agamemnon: “He was also my brother-in-law—shameless bitch/ That I am—if that life was ever real” (3.190-1).

COMMENT: These are just plot summary without argument.  They fail to provide a context for the quotation and does nothing to advance the thesis. Moreover, in the first quotation line numbers are not provided, so the context of the quotation is even further obscured.


In Book 16, Achilles reveals his disillusionment with the heroic ethos as he slips into fantasy, wishing that “all of them, Greeks and Trojans alike,/ Every last man on Troy’s dusty plain,/ Were dead, and only you and I were left/ To rip Ilion down, stone by sacred stone” (16.104-107).

For Helen, like Achilles, the war has created a break with reality, as in her reminiscence about Agamemnon: “He was also my brother-in-law—shameless bitch/ That I am—if that life was ever real.” (3.190-1)  Her life before Troy has now faded to a dream.

COMMENT: Here the quotations are adequately contextualized and cited, and clearly used to support a specific contention that advances an argument.


  1. As Ovid says, "In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas" (Met. 1.1).

    COMMENT: Here, a short quotation is given in quotation marks and is not set apart from the text of the analysis; the title is italicized and abbreviated with a standard abbreviation, and then the book number is given followed by the line number. A period is the standard way to separate book and line numbers.

  2. As Ovid says,

    My intention is to tell of bodies changed
    To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,
    Will help me -- or so I hope... (Met. 1.1-3).

    COMMENT: Here, the quotation is long, and so it is indented. Line breaks are preserved. The citation is essentially the same in format as in the previous example, except that several verses are quoted, and so we have 1-3 instead of just 1 for the line number.

  3. As Ovid says, "bodies changed / To different forms..." (Met. 1.1-2).

    COMMENT: In this example, a short passage is cited that includes a line break.

  4. In his Symposium, Plato depicts a very interesting speech by the historical figure Alcibiades (215a3-218b7).

    COMMENT: This citation is not quoting any of Plato directly, it just tells the reader where in the Symposium this speech can be found. When you refer to something without quoting it directly, you should usually still give a citation telling your reader where to find the passage you are referring to.

Citing ancient sources (i.e. primary literature)

Classics uses a specialized, precise method of citiation. The proper format for citing classical texts:

[Author], [Title] [Book/Section.(Poem, if applicable)].[Line #s cited]



Homer, Iliad 18.141-143.
Sophocles, Antigone 904-922.
Horace, Odes 4.1.1-4.
Vergil, Eclogues 1.1-10.


Cicero, First Catilinarian 14.2.
Plato, Symposium 215a3-218b7.

Omitting Name of Work: If an author wrote only one work, you may omit the name of the work; for example: Herodotus 9.1; rather than Herodotus, Histories 9.1.

Abbreviations: Most classical authors and texts do have standard abbreviations that you may want to employ; these can be on page xxix ff. of the Oxford Classical Dictionary (DE5 .O9 2003) or on-line at UNC's Ancient World Mapping Center.

Capitalization: If you are generically citing a specific book in a work, capitalize both elements (Book Eighteen or Book 18 or Book XVIII); generic references, such as “several books in the Iliad,” should not be capitalized.

NOTE: If you are including a parenthetical citation at the end of a sentence – e.g. (Homer, Odyssey 1.1-3) – the period always follows the citation.

Citing Secondary Sources

The format differs slightly for citations that appear embedded in body of the paper and those that appear in the footnotes. Always include author, date, and page numbers. Your readers can then consult your Bibliography for the full citation of the work.


For citations in your text proper (rather than in a footnote), surround the information with parentheses and place before the final punctuation of the sentence.

EXAMPLE: (Highet 1999, 121-25).   


In footnotes, omit the parentheses.

EXAMPLE: Highet 1999, 121-25.

Using Ibid.

"Ibid." is an abbreviation of ibidem (note the period at the end of Ibid.), which is Latin for "in the same place." It indicates that you are continuing to refer to the last source you mentioned. If you are referring to both the same source and page number, you need only put "Ibid." in your citation; if, however, you are citing the same source but a different place in that text, use Ibid. and add the new page number--e.g. Ibid., 120.


1 Blundell 1992, 118.  
2 Ibid. this indicates that the second reference refers to the same work and page number
3 Ibid., 120. [referring to the same work (Blundell 1992), but a different page number.
4 Highet 1999, 203. Reference to a different work requires a new full citation.
5 Blundell 1992, 118. Even though you have previously referred to this work and page number, because it is not the immediately preceding citation, the full citation must be given again.
6 Ibid., 120.  

Formats to use when citing a work in your bibliography

Book with One Author

Last name, First Name. Year Published. Title [Italicized]. City of Publication: Publisher.

Highet, Gilbert. 1999. The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Book with an Editor

Last name, First Name of editor ed. Year Published. Title [Italicized]. City of Publication: Publisher.

Scarre, Chris ed. 1995. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome. New York: Penguin Books.

Chapter of A Book with an Editor

Last Name, First Name. Year Published. Title [in quotation marks] in Title [Italicized], Last name of editor, Frist Name ed. City of Publication: Publisher.

Goldhill, Simon. 2006. "The Touch of Sappho" in Classics and the Uses of Reception, Martindale, Charles and R. Thomas ed. Oxford:: Blackwell.


Last name, First Name or Common Name. Year Published. Title [Italicized]. Translated by Name of Translator (First name Last name). City of Publication: Publisher.

Homer. 2000. The Essential Homer. Translated by S. Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Book in More Than One Volume

Last name, First Name. Year Published. Title [Italicized]. Ed. Name of Editor (First name, last). # of volume cited. City of Publication: Publisher.

Gibbon, Edward. 1993. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 1. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Article From a Journal

Last name, First Name. Year Published. “Title.” Name of Journal [Italicized] Volume #.Issue # (if applicable): pages cited.

Dodds, E.R. 1966. “On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex.” Greece and Rome 13: 37-49.

On-line Resource

When citing an on-line resource, give the URL and the date you accessed the page; because of the dynamic nature of web content, the last piece of information is important. If the page is attributed to an author, include that information as well.

EXAMPLES (Note the URLs appear on the a second line to avoid wrapping the link on two lines; it should, however, follow the title on the same line, if it can fit):

Porter, John. "The Iliad as Oral Formulaic Poetry", http://duke.usask.ca/~porterj/CourseNotes/HomOral.html (accessed May 2, 2005).

Dixon, Suzanne. "Roman Women: Following the Clues", http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/roman_women_01.shtml/ (accessed May 2, 2005).

***parts of this guide are copied and/or developed from "Citing Sources for Classics Courses: A Basic Guide" (http://www.swarthmore.edu/Humanities/classics/Pages/CitationGuidelines.html, accessed May 2, 2006) by the Swarthmore College Department of Classics. Used with Permission.